Missionary priest celebrates golden jubilee on two continents

.- It will be a double celebration of sorts for Fr. Tom Brown’s golden jubilee. The Oblate of Mary Immaculate is marking his 50th anniversary to the priesthood in his native United States as well as in his adopted home, Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Irondequoit native from upstate New York was ordained to the missionary order June 6, 1955. He began his ministry in São Paulo shortly after his ordination back in 1955 and currently serves as pastor of the 50,000-member Our Lady Help of Christians Parish.

It is one of two English-speaking parishes in Brazil, and many of the faithful are relatively well off. But, in an interview with Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, Fr. Brown pointed out that the parish has a mission to the needy.

He said parishioners “build bridges with the poor” by offering them a number of services, including food and clothing. The parish also provides day care, adopt-a-family services and English-language classes.

Over the years, the pastor has developed important friendships with parishioners. His witness and spiritual guidance have even inspired some young men to consider the priesthood and religious life. Parishioners plan to pay tribute to him for his 50 years of ordained ministry upon his return to São Paulo in the days to come.

Currently, the 78-year-old priest is in upstate New York, where he says part of his roots are. He is visiting and celebrating his jubilee with his family and longtime friends. Masses were planned at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Greece, N.Y., where he had spent a sabbatical time, and at St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, his home parish.

His older brother, Bernard, joined the celebrations. Bernard was also ordained for the Oblates, and in 1947 joined the order’s missions in the Canadian North. He served 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Colville Lake, Northwest Territory. He developed a mission there, which grew from one Catholic family to a community of 120 people called Our Lady of the Snows. Bernard, now 84, left the priesthood in 1971 but he continues to serve as a missionary.

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April 23, 2014

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